Saturday, 12 January 2013

Winter; life inside

Yesterday Ian packed the car and the trailer with a piece of furniture he has been making for younger son and his wife and an assortment of things to go down with him to Devon.  This morning at eight o' clock he drove away before it was properly light, going to Devon via my brother's house in Chepstow on a long drive south and west through a cold January day.  Ages ago I blogged here about whether you are the leaver or the left, whether you are the one who stays and holds the fort or the one who goes away, briefly or for longer stretches.  In our marriage I have tended to be the leaver, working away, travelling for work, always looking forward to coming home but very used to the idea that home went on without me.  It was hard to begin with but I got used to it and there were pleasures in solitary time too.  Since I did my downsizing when I left my big job three years ago I am home most of the time and since my father in law came to live with us both Ian and I live a much more home based life than we used to.  Generally if anyone goes away it is still me: visiting children and grandchildren, catching up with friends, while Ian stays and looks after his father.  But part of the way in which we are choosing to deal with the problems of ill health in my family, so far away, is for one or the other of us to spend a week down there every six weeks or so.  So far that has been me but we wanted to share things, both at home and away, so this week Ian is down with my family and I am on father in law watch.

It is a long time since Ian has been away for so long.  When I read my earlier post I am struck by how different life is now.  Then I wrote about the silence and the luxury of having the house to yourself, even though I missed Ian and by the time he returned was longing for him to come home.  Now there is not that silence but the noise of my father in law singing in the kitchen or the distant sound of old cowboy films from his television.  There is no luxury in it, more a sense of responsibility.  The responsibility is not onerous, not as onerous as what Ian will be doing all those miles away, but it is a responsibility.

Perhaps that is why it has taken me all day to settle into being without Ian.  I have a list as long as my arm of things to do while he is away: finishing my accounts, filing my tax return, Welsh, yoga, writing, walking, buying curtain material for the holiday cottage and starting to make the new curtains.  I couldn't get it all done  in a week if I gave up sleep.  But I have been drifting and fiddling, reading blogs rather than writing one, filling the bird feeders, wandering out to look at the chickens scratching busily in the cold.  I was going to walk after lunch but the wind was hard and icy cold with tiny scatterings of snow in it.  Even going out for logs made my hands and feet cold and my ears begin to ache.  The sky was too light for much snow but the cold bit through my jeans and the wind lashed my hair against my cold face.  It was a relief to come back in by the stove.

I am settling to aloneness now.  I am planning some trips out and some bits of sanity saving company and I realise of course that what I really need to do is to knit.  Knitting is the perfect occupation when you need to avoid doing your tax return or anything else vaguely dutiful and unpleasant.  It makes you feel happily busy and gives you the compulsive satisfaction of seeing something real emerge beneath your hands.  It uses just enough of the brain to prevent you from thinking much about anything else and the very action of the needles is a meditation.


I have some Debbie Bliss wool left over from a cowl made last year and I am going to make some fingerless gloves.  I have developed a real love for fingerless gloves despite the fact that my loving children laugh at me and tell me I am wearing bag lady gloves (well not all of my children but you know who you are!).  I am amazed at how warm they are and at how well they combine with wandering around the garden and shutting up the chickens and bringing in logs.  And they are quick and allow you to feel that you are achieving, not procrastinating at all.


This is a very beautiful picture of the pattern, courtesy of aspenglow on Flickr.  I will be delighted if mine look half as good as this!

So here I sit by the stove, the wool and the needles ready on the sofa, the cat sleeping on the back of the chair, noticing that Ian is not here.  That is one of the good things about time apart: it makes you appreciate the person you live with!

What do you do with time when your partner is away if you have any?  If you don't have a partner do you relish your solitude or fill it?


48 comments:

  1. This is a lovely blog post, Elizabeth and one that a lot of us will be able to identify with. I think January and February are the two hardest months to plough through and knitting is such a satisfying occupation when it's too cold to go outside much.

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    1. I totally agree with you about January and February - for me especially February when I begin to long for spring in a quite unreasonable way. I have this idea that March will be spring but quite often it is fiercely cold and horrible! Knitting and wine are a big help, and baking, but that is even worse for the waistline.

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  2. Lot's to think about here. In our case right now it's relishing being back in this place after a few days away in London. Relishing the silence, the space and the solitude particularly. Our plans on returning were somewhat governed by the weather forecast - which was screaming SNOW! However we returned to find the same-old, same-old damp greyness. And how welcome it was too.

    I've been knitting slippers - which I would photograph and boast about but they look nothing until on the hoof!

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    1. Would love to see your knitted slippers! I have the most beautiful pattern but it looks hard as hard so I keep not doing it.

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  3. Lovely . . . thinking of you and reflecting on my own "being the leaver and/or the left.".

    Most days "we" are home together. Friday happened to be a day I was home alone while Mr IGH was away. My thought initially was, I am going to do this and that and more of this and that . . . I found myself enjoying alone time by making some pretties with clay. At the same time I found myself missing the sounds that usually remind me that Mr IGH is near, upstairs, next room.

    I have been retired for thirteen yers and have grown accustomed to solitude plus freedom to be out and about with friends/activities. Mr IGH is now semi retired. Adjusting from solitude at home to my companion also being home caused for some adjustment . . . for each of us. Now we have settled into what we call "our thing" . . . An adjustment it would be to increase our twosome to a threesome.

    One thing about living life is . . . it is always changing.

    I enjoy your introspection very much . . . and appreciate your wisdom.

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    1. Interesting that for both you and Diana below there was an adjustment to having someone around all the time. Our adjustments came piling in on top of each other: I left my previous job and was home all the time, my husband cut his working hours, my father in law came to live with us. No wonder it has felt like the earth has shifted!

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  4. For the first couple of days I love it.. the TV remote control is all mine and there is no snoring! I am productive and loads gets done. After that I begin to drift. Perhaps now I have a blog it will be different. I love to be alone. But I need company too.

    Those fingerless gloves are great. I have some, bought not made, and they are so cosy. When it gets really cold I wear them to type!

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    1. I am so totally the same in loving both aloneness and company. And I do identify with the drift that accompanies too much time alone.

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  5. My husband used to travel a lot for his work, but since he took early retirement about fifteen years ago, I am almost never alone. In some ways I miss it. I used to use the time he was away to finish up projects, start new ones, read until late at night (I am a night owl, he is an early-rising lark). But now, there is always someone in the house, puttering etc. Both good and bad. Because I too used to relish the quiet.

    But I look around at some of my friends and how miserable they are on their own and count my blessings!

    By the way, I totally agree with you about the knitting. I like to knit while we watch television in the evenings. Over the past ten years or so, I've knitted dozens and dozens of scarves and hats which I gave to a church charity. Lately I've been knitting sweaters -- I'm not sure I'm very good at it, so I keep them to wear around the house, instead of fobbing them off on some unsuspecting friend or stranger! But they are toasty and warm.

    I also understand the weight of the responsibility of looking after aged parents. Been there, done that. They're gone now, but I still miss them. Especially my mother.

    Take care and God bless, xoxo

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    1. I am more of a night owl too. When I am on my own my going to bed time slips later and later and I have to haul myself back to something more normal!

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  6. I have been the 'Leaver' more than the 'Left' but now we are together as we have BOTH 'left!' We are 260 miles from our home living in our RV helping our daughter with her quadruplets - born on 5/31/2013.

    I CRAVE 'alone' time and have so very little of it! Even 'alone' - you are not! You still have 'responsibilities.' As do I. It is what it is.....

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    1. Quadruplets and alone time sound an unlikely mixture even if you are not the mother! Exciting though!

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  7. NAH is away quite a lot too - seeing his mum or volunteering on the Talyllyn railway. What you've described here very much sums up the way I feel about those times too.

    I've also found it's a 'dangerous' time when madcap big projects get hatched. My blog started as one of those, as did my Open Garden in 2008, then my Blurb book and The 52 Week Salad Challenge in 2011. I'm still working on those hatched in 2012, but I'm not ready to share those yet...

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    1. I can see how it might become a dangerous time! I haven't had enough of it before to do much damage but I might find myself carried away if it happens a lot!

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  8. As an accountant, I truly believe that knitting is the perfect occupation to avoid working on taxes!
    After a period of loneliness when we first started our city/country home experience, I have come to enjoy (read: need) my two days of solitude at the farmhouse. Any more that that though, would be sad.

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    1. I am an accountant too so I have no excuse! I have done the return now. I never mind when I get going on it, it is the thought that sends me to knitting, cooking, eating and reading the cereal packet.

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  9. A beautiful meditation ... at first I typed medication ... well, both.

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    1. Not sure how I feel about my writing as medication James :)!

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  10. I like my rare periods of solitude, though I feel then compelled to be less distracted than usual, more disciplined, guilty if I read or watch television; I always have a list as long as your arm without which the world as we know it would slow and come juddering to an angry halt. Nothing I do however is half so useful as knitting. My great aunt tried to teach me when I was a child but failed. I don't think either of us were surprised. She could turn a heel, too, and knit what she called 'stockings.' The click of needles in a gathering winter gloom; the radio rehearsing Mrs Dale's Diary, somewhere a kettle whistles. The click of the needles stops. It is now quite dark........'There's a tin of McVities' Rich Tea,' she says, turning on the light.

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    1. Interesting that you feel the need to be more disciplined when solitary. I veer about, swinging from drifting and daydreaming to hyper achieving.
      I could see your knitting great aunt there!

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  11. As you know I'm single but with two adult sons. I have really noticed over the last year or so how my attitude to being in the house alone for a reasonable length of time has changed. I used to relish it when the boys were smaller, welcoming the silence, the peace but now I find myself missing the adult company, the sharing, the humour and just knowing someone else is there. I have found it quite a challenge and still do

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    1. It must be quite an adjustment being without your boys. I do remember from when mine went off to university how hard it was at first. It does get easier though.

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  12. I'm currently away from my husband on the other side of the world. It's a bizarre feeling knowing he is just so far away, especially as I'm in NZ visiting family with our baby. I'm being kept busy looking after our baby and with my family so I think it's my darling husband who's feeling the blues and missing us more as he's back in London at home alone (with our 2 rescue cats for company).

    I love your blog and will be back to read more. I connect with your feelings for the countryside, gardening and leaving a busy life behind.

    Thanks for sharing, Lydia

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    1. It is hard when you are not only alone but a long way from those you love, and New Zealand is about as far as you can get! Hope you enjoy a great reunion!

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  13. He was a tour guide, away a LOT, I'm a loner enjoying my solitude. When he retired it was a huge adjustment - for better or worse but not for lunch! Part of our solution is the week he spends volunteering with the Cape Leopard Trust, and part is the time I am spending with my mother.

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    1. These adjustments can be hard. My big adjustment has been not so much having my husband around a lot (I too love my solitude) but losing the delight of an empty house now that my father in law lives with us. The shepherd's hut has helped a lot with that!

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  14. Doing lots of blog reading this weekend since husband and student daughter are away skiing, and I'm musing on solitude and feeling alone, so I can't believe the coincidence of finding your post. I used to think solitude was my preferred mode (only child and all that), but now I find myself feeling left behind and thinking all my leisure pastimes are rather hollow without company of people who matter to me. It's only a week, but it makes me both appreciate what I have and look ahead to old age and wonder about coping. I don't knit - perhaps I should try to learn!

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    1. I find the balancing act fascinating Linda. Too little solitude and I go nuts but this week has reminded me powerfully of the importance of interacting with friends and family. And yes, give knitting a go. It doesn't suit everyone and I don't do it at all in summer when I do the garden instead but I do find it oddly compulsive in winter!

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  15. At the risk of being a bore, I have to say, yet again, that you have posted on something that has had my mind's attention for the last little while. You see, for the past 13 years, I have been the leaver. For the 15 years before that, I was the one left at home. What has recently occurred to me is how much I miss having the house to myself, even for a little while. It's not that I wish The Great Dane to go away - it's just that I miss a little solitude in my own space. It's just not the same in a hotel room.

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    1. I know so exactly what you mean. I too have spent far too much time in hotel rooms. It is at home that solitude is sustaining.

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  16. First I was fooled when I saw the mittens and the hand, thought: Elizabeth has so 'clean' fingers and posh nails! ;-))) - ha! I don't know any gardener with posh nails, but perhaps you would have been the exception in winter times? We have always been both the leavers until I stopped working. Now I enjoy the farm nearly daily on my own, only some evenings and weekends are the highlights to have that precious feeling of togetherness. I don't fear the time when EG will be stopping working, he has such a huge playground here and an enormous wishlist of things he wants to do then, we might not see each other so much more than now. Since I am so privileged to not to have to go to work anymore, I have really discovered how beautiful our place is and every morning by looking into the mirror I say to myself: this is MY day, what am I going to do with it? My list is always longer than the day but nobody than myself will blame me if I don't achieve it. And what a freedom to be able to decide whether I want to see somebody or stay on my own. P.S. I always enjoy reading your blog, even if I don't comment every time. Am looking forward to see more of your knitting.

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    1. I love the idea of starting each day with the thought that this is your day and what are you going to do with it! Such an empowering, engaged way of living your life. Love it.

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  17. Well, my hubby and I are apart a lot, though only separated by about a twenty minute car ride. We both work, and our schedules do not "sync". The pros are that we get alone time to do our own thing, without the pining of long distance separation. Being apart makes us really appreciate being together. The cons are that we don't get to spend as much time together as we'd like, and we're very jealous of the few days we do get to spend together, and thus are very reluctant to get involved with other people. The fact that our schedules are so screwy has resulted in basically no social life, other than one couple who happen to be our tenants and thus live twenty yards from our front door.

    Love the fingerless gloves - I crocheted myself a pair! Must dig them out of the closet, it's getting cold enough to wear them now!

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    1. Ah yes, when I worked away a lot one of the things that went by the board was any kind of social life. When I was home I only wanted to see my husband and family. It is expanding a bit now but it is a hard habit to get out off having done it for nearly twenty years.

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  18. P.S. Come over to my blog - I need your opinion on something!

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  19. Hi Elizabeth - thanks for visiting my blog - it's lovely to meet you. My husband and I both work from home so we are together a lot. It does make it very strange when someone goes away. Short doses of solitude are luxury but too long and the house feels too big and empty. That hardly ever happens with three kids of school age, but I guess it is something we'll be adjusting to in a few years time as they grow up.

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    1. It is the balance thing again! A little solitude is fab, too much eats the soul.

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  20. Lovely post. I'm trying to find time to move on with my current knitting project. I manage a few rows here, a few there, but not much more. The gloves look lovely. I really like fingerless gloves and mitts, perfect for protecting the majority of your hands while leaving your fingertips free for any detail required... Enjoy your solitude, and banking up the appreciation that absence draws forth, for your husband's return.

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    1. I love fingerless gloves although for years I didn't see the attraction. Now I have three pairs and may soon be casting on some more. Quick to do too!

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  21. I enjoyed reading this post very much, Elizabeth. What you describe so well does remind me very much of some questions I've asked myself from time to time over the past decades as I made some rather large changes in my own life.

    Some would think that I now lead a very solitary life, even though during my work days I am surrounded by an ever changing collection of people with whom I constantly interact on many levels. It's rather lovely to have some quiet time at home to balance out all the work day challenges, and also delightful to have opportunities to meet up with friends for catch up chats, coffee, walks in the park, gallery visits, and just sharing our evolving friendships.

    Of course, blogging is also rather pleasant! xo

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    1. You sound to have a rather lovely balance Frances. Gallery visits and walks in the park are not part of my life much these days and I rather envy you those!

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  22. I'm knitting up a storm right now and enjoying a movie fest....waiting for the snow!!

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    1. Ah, am about to blog about waiting for snow!

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  23. Thank you for stopping by my blog, as I have now had the pleasure of discovering yours! I'm a housewife and love the solitude of the day, but this is tempered with knowing I also relish the bustle of home time, mornings and weekends. I am not sure how I will cope with the impending "empty nest" when it will be just me and the husband. I will no doubt blog all about it! Love your writing and look forward to reading your posts from now on.

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    1. The balance we have been talking about comes naturally when you are at home with children at school and the ebb and flow of family life. Great to find your blog too!

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  24. those are beautiful..wish i knew how to knit cables..iam doing a simple 2x2 ribbing on my fingerless gloves..

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    1. Cables are really really easy. Having looked at some of what you have done I am quite sure you would have no trouble at all. There are some good you tube videos which show you how.

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